August has been a brutal month for advocates of government-run health care. According to a new CNN poll, for the first time in his presidency, a majority of independents (53%) now disapprove of how President Barack Obama is handling his job. And a majority of all Americans (53%) also disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling health care. Responding to these new facts on the ground, senior Obama officials are now telling Politico that when Obama does finally detail the specifics of what he wants to see in a health care bill, the public option will not be included.

Instead, according to Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, President Obama will focus on health reform that will “create competition and choice.” Axelrod’s focus groups must love that phrase, because the White House has been selling Obamacare as “choice and competition” for some time now. Unfortunately, even without the public option, the other pillars of Obamacare (federal regulation of health insurance, massive new taxpayer-funded subsidies, and employer and individual mandates) will all decrease, not increase, Americans’ health care choices.

Conservatives have been for increased “choice and competition” in health care long before David Axelrod discovered the phrase was popular with the American people and commandeered it to push Obamacare. Such pro-competition reforms include giving individuals the freedom to purchase coverage from trusted sources and not be restricted by where they happen to live, equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance purchases, and putting Medicare and Medicaid on a fiscally sustainable path.

Heritage Center for Health Policy Studies Deputy Director Nina Owcharenko concludes: “Instead of continuing to protect the status quo, Congress should advance improvements that put the health care system on a path to reform. Such improvements should be focused on increasing choice and competition not by turning control over to Washington but by empowering individuals and families to control their health care dollars and decisions.”

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